Lackawanna's interim superintendent of schools will make a recommendation to the School Board about allegations by a school employee that she was verbally abused by the board president.
Lunch monitor Rosemary Gelyon claims Board President Helen Chmiel accosted her Sept. 20 in the Truman Elementary School, after Mrs. Gelyon had questioned board staffing policy at a School Board meeting the previous night.
Mrs. Gelyon, Mrs. Chmiel, interim Superintendent Nicholas D. Korach and an attorney for the district met during a closed, informal hearing Wednesday.
Korach said he will review a transcript of the hearing, then make a recommendation to the board.
Either woman can appeal to the state education commissioner if not satisfied with the outcome, James M. Shaw, school attorney, said after the 45-minute meeting. Korach is a board employee, but Education Law permits him to listen to both sides and make the recommendation, instead of a hearing officer, Shaw said.
Mrs. Gelyon acted prematurely in petitioning the commissioner to remove Mrs. Chmiel before a local hearing, Shaw said.
Both women declined to comment after the hearing, but Shaw said they gave conflicting views of the incident.
Shaw released a copy of Mrs. Chmiel's response to State Education Commissioner Thomas Sobol. Mrs. Gelyon's petition had been made available previously.
Mrs. Chmiel said in her response that the Gelyon petition "is both untimely and maliciously made" because it preceded the hearing and should be dismissed because it offers no proof she engaged in willful misconduct or abused her power.
Mrs. Chmiel said she was in the school for a meeting, then approached Mrs. Gelyon to get more information and explain that financial constraints prevented the district from having y a full complement of monitors on duty at all times.
Mrs. Chmiel said she is aware that she has no independent authority to make policy but added that she has an obligation to obtain the views and concerns of employees and had approached Mrs. Gelyon in that vein.
Both women spoke in loud voices only because of the high noise level in the cafeteria, Mrs. Chmiel said.
She acknowledged "that we disagreed sharply, as it is perfectly within the rights of each of us to do. However, at no time was Mrs. Gelyon threatened, intimidated or harassed."
She said she did not give up her right to free speech when she became School Board president.
"I recognize, however, that my freedom of speech has limitations and that I am not free to abuse my power by conduct that is unprofessional and unfitting to a person in my status. At no time did I conduct myself in such a manner."